Library of Unwritten Manuscripts

Digital images created with generative AI and edited in Lightroom, 2022.

Usually libraries collect already published books. But let’s ask a question, using the history of literature in 20th century USSR as example. Do the works of fiction and that were published in USSR include best novels, best poems, best most innovative ideas? Often the answer is no. Many of the most talented and important writes in Russia could not publish their best works during this period - and sometimes no works at all. A few had their work published in other countries.

But many works remained only in manuscript forms. Or they were not even written down. Instead friends memorized them and wrote down many years later. But the very best literary works were not even written down. They remained in writers’ heads. As plans. And perhaps even as detailed outlines or finished parts - which the authors never committed to papers in fear, or simply knowing that they will be never published in USSR.

This history is the background for Library of Unwritten Manuscripts series. It is an imaginary library that only houses writers’ manuscripts of literary works that were either 1) never published, or 2) never completed, or 3) never written down.

The images show imaginary pages that could have been written - but tey are perfect final manuscripts. Instead, these manuscripts are torn, half-erased. They are material evidence of a cultural process typical of all human cultural history: the best ideas and plans in all genres of art were frequently never realized and remained only as notes and drafts. Or were they were never written down and therefore simply disappeared completely.

The universality of this history is emphasized by the text we see in the images. It looks like something that it written in some existing language but actually it is not: AI simulates general patterns of grammar, handwriting and hand sketching, as opposed to any concrete language.